Sunday, April 29, 2007

Parshat Emor

"You shall not profane My holy name, and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel, I am the L-rd Who sanctifies you" (Leviticus 22; 32). The idea of Minyan is derived from this verse by the Talmud. The Bavli (Babylonian) and Yerushalmi Talmud use different events to illustrate this concept. Both verses contain the word 'midst' and each Talmud applies the hermeneutic principle of Gezeira Shava to learn from an identical word elsewhere in the Chumash.
The Bavli learns from Korach's rebellion against Moshe and the twelve spies who brought back the evil report about Israel. Before G-d destroys Korach and his cohorts, He tells Moshe and Aharon "Separate yourselves from the midst of this congregation, and I shall destroy them in an instant" (Numbers 6; 20). We learn here that the word congregation means ten men, as it says "How long for this evil congregation that provokes complaints against Me..." (ibid. 14; 26). Though there were twelve spies who scouted out the land of Israel, Joshua and Calev brought back good reports, so only ten were considered the evil congregation.
The Yerushalmi Talmud derives the need for ten men from Joseph's brothers when they came to Egypt to purchase grain. The verse states "The sons of Israel came to buy provisions in the midst of those who came..." (Genesis 42; 5). Though Ya'akov had twelve sons, Joseph was already in Egypt, and Benjamin did not go with the others, so there were ten who came into Egypt. Rashi explains the word 'midst' means that they disguised themselves when they entered Egypt, and it was for this reason that Joseph was able to accuse them of being spies. However, according to the Midrash, the reason that they disguised themselves was in order to find Joseph who they had sold into slavery. So, as above, the need for a minyan is based on a group sin.
The simple explanation of a Gezeira Shava is that when the same word appears in two places the Rabbis can learn a concept from one to the other. However, on a deeper level, it seems that there is some connection between these incidents, and the need for a quorum for prayer. Somehow prayer with a minyan must be intended to correct those sins. The Halacha states that we may not say Barchu, Kaddish or Kedusha without a minyan. These are the most holy of prayers, describing G-d's sanctity.
If we look closely at all three incidents, the spies, the brothers and Korach's rebellion, we see that ultimately they were a struggle for leadership. The spies were the leaders of their tribes in the desert. According to the Midrash they were afraid that once they came into the land of Israel and each person had their own portion of land their power would be diminished. Therefore they plotted to remain in the desert as long as possible. Korach's quarrel with Moshe and Aharon was also a power struggle. His main complaint was that his younger cousin had been made the head of the family, not he. Finally, the reason that the brothers sold Joseph was because of his dreams that they would eventually bow down to him. They wanted to remove this 'claimant to the throne' from their midst.
It is not only people who proclaim G-d's sanctity, but also the angels. In Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly host he describes them. "And one cried to another, and said, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the L-rd of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with His glory." (6; 3). It seems that even amongst the angels G-d's sanctity can only be proclaimed after they have all called to each other for permission. Though each angel has its own specific and unique mission, only when they all unite is G-d's unity proclaimed. Through showing that all the separate tasks are part of a single Divine plan G-d's sanctity is shown to the world.
This is exactly the same with people. As long as each person is struggling for their own personal interests, in the so called 'survival of the fittest', G-d remains hidden from the world. Whether it is a power struggle between princes, Rabbis or sons of Ya'akov, the egocentric focus does not allow room for G-d to be perceived. However, when a group of people unite to pray, to sanctify G-d through praise, their own personal interests must be set aside. Therefore each time we make a minyan for prayer, we partially correct the underlying character defect that led to the sins from whence we derive the need for a quorum.

Emor summary

Emor begins with laws which apply to male Cohanim. They are not permitted to come into contact with a dead body, with the exception of certain close relatives. They must not make marks on their bodies as signs of mourning. They are also forbidden from marrying a divorcee or a woman who has previously had forbidden sexual relationships. The Cohen Gadol (High Priest) is forbidden to grow his hair long or to wear ripped clothes. He may not come into contact with any dead body, even that of his parents. He may only marry a virgin.
Any Cohen who has a physical blemish may not serve in the Temple. However he may still eat from the sacrifices and all of the other laws of Cohanim apply to him. Any Cohen who is ritually impure may not enter the Temple or offer any sacrifices. Only a Cohen and his family may eat of the sacrifices which belong to the Cohanim, or eat terumah (tithe from crops). If the daughter of a Cohen marries a non-Cohen she may no longer eat terumah.
A blemished animal may not be sacrificed. It may be given, however, as a gift to the Temple. No animal may be sacrificed before it is eight days old. We may not slaughter a female animal and its child on the same day. A Thanksgiving sacrifice must be eaten on the same day that it is sacrificed.
G-d told Moshe the laws of the festivals. On Shabbat we may not do any melacha (creative activity). Pesach (Passover) is on the 14th of Nissan. We must eat matza for seven days. On the second day of Pesach we bring the Omer offering of barley. We then begin counting seven weeks. On the fiftieth day, Shavuot, a wheat offering is brought from the new grain. Rosh HaShana is on the first day of the seventh month and the shofar is sounded. The 10th of that month is Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Succot is on the 15th of the month, and it lasts for seven days. During the festival of Succoth we must take an esrog, lulav, myrtle and willow. We must also dwell in Succot for seven days.
G-d tells Moshe about the Menorah. Every evening Aharon shall light it so that it shall burn from evening until morning. Twelve loaves of bread are set upon the Shulchan (table) in the Temple and are replaced every Shabbat.
A certain man began to quarrel and blasphemed G-d's name. The people brought him to Moshe and kept him under custody until the penalty could be specified by G-d. G-d instructs that a blasphemer must be taken outside the camp and stoned to death. Similarly a murderer must be put to death. If one kills an animal he must make monetary compensation. If someone injures his neighbour he must pay compensation.

Tosefet Bracha - Acharei Mot

“You shall afflict your souls” (16; 31)
Several times in the Talmud it teaches the well known drasha: If someomne eats and drinks on the ninth (of Tishrei – the day before Yom Kippur) it is considered as if he has fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.
The reason for this drasha is not clear, why should there be such a great reward for eating and drinking such that it is considered like fasting on Yom Kippur? Rashi takes it a step further and says (Rosh Hashana 9a) that anyone who eats a lot and drinks a lot …. This just makes it more confusing and we have to figure out why this should be true.
Perhas we can explain based on the Mishna in Ta’anit (26a) that the anshei mishmar (the representatives from each town who went to the Temple in shifts to ‘supervise’ the sacrifices) would sit and learn constantly in the Beit Hamikdash and would dedicate their learning and the sacrifices to all of Israel. They would fast every day of the week except for Sunday. The Talmud explains the reason for not fasting on Sunday, so that they should not go directly from the rest and enjoyment of Shabbat into fasting, which may weaken them significantly and endanger their lives. The conept of dying refers here to the weakening of the body, just as the phrase ‘the Torah will only be acquired properly by someone who ‘kills’ themselves over it’ (Brachot 63b). This doesn’t mean actual killing, but weakening themselves, because if they would actually kill themselves over it that would certainly not be acquiring it at all. Once a person dies they become free from the Torah (as it says in Nida 61b). In the Talmud of Tamid (32a) it asks: what should a person do to live? Kill themselves (in other words humble themselves). There are many other examples of this use of the word ‘kill’ or ‘death’.
So the Mishna in Ta’anit means that on Shabbat a person spoils themselves with food and drink, as Rashi explains in Beitza (16a) regarding the extra soul of Shabbat. He says that the soul expands the ability of the heart to enjoy and be happy with food and drink without being repulsed by it. We can understand that ‘being repulsed’ teaches that the nature of a person is that when they have eaten their fill and there is no room left in their bellies, they lose their appetite for any more food and they become repulsed by it. But on Shabbat a person is able to eat and drink more without becoming ill from having eaten too much.
Therefore it is clear that a fast that comes straight after Shabbat is very difficult. This is why the anshei mishmar would not fast on Sunday. Similarly, the more one eats and drinks on the day before Yom Kippur, the more difficult it is for them to fast on Yom Kippur. This is why it is praiseworthy to eat and drink on the ninth and it is considered as if they had fasted. The difficulty of the subsequent fast is considered like a double fast. We can see that Rashi was very precise when he said ‘eats and drinks a lot’, because it is the extra food that makes the fast more difficult.
You should know that based on this explanation we can understand the statement of the Talmud (Brachot 34b) that in a place where ba’alei Teshuva stand completely righteous people are unable to stand. At first glance it seems difficult to understand why someone who has sinned should be on a higher level than someone who has not. The sinner has sated their body and soul with sins and all kinds of forbidden things – how can they reach a higher level than someone who has never sinned but lived their life in purity and holiness?
According to our explanation above, we can explain that the higher level of someone who has sinned and done Teshuva is precisely because they have filled themselves with the pleasures of sin and physical desires. This makes it much more difficult for them to separate themselves from the physicality. To make the transition from a lifestyle of hedonism to the ‘afflictions’ and ‘suffering’ of keeping the mitzvot makes them much greater than those who were completely righteous all of their lives. (based on Rashi who explains (Succah 52a) that the word ‘chasid’ refers to someone who has never sinned in their life). Therefore the challenge of someone who becomes a ba’al Teshuva is much greater and their reward is similarly much greater.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Parshat Acharei

This is the matter that G-d has commanded, saying: 'Any man or woman from the house of Israel who will slaughter a bull, a sheep or a goat and has not brought it to the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed (Tent of Meeting) to bring it as an offering to G-d it shall be considered as bloodshed for that person, they have shed blood, and that person shall be cut off from their people." (Leviticus 17; 2-4) While the Jews were in the desert all animals had to be sacrifices on the altar in the Ohel Mo'ed, and after Temple was constructed in Jerusalem, it was prohibited to offer any sacrifices elsewhere. Not only was it forbidden, but this sin carried the most serious punishment of kares, spiritual death. This needs explanation.
Rabbi Aharon Tendler asks the following question. Why should offering sacrifices on a personal altar be forbidden? If an individual desired to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice for example, after surviving danger or the birth of a child, he would have to travel to Jerusalem in order to show their thanks to G-d. Since it could take weeks to make the trip to Jerusalem and back, most people would put off bringing their sacrifices until the next pilgrimage festival, when they had to go anyway. It would take an unusual level of devotion to maintain enthusiasm for performing the sacrifice in this way. The offerings would inevitably change from a free-willed, outpouring of love and devotion to an imposed obligation of service and commitment. Wouldn't it have been much more intense and intimate for an individual to fulfill his desire to acknowledge G-d at the very moment when His benevolent protection and guidance was revealed? Why limit the recognition of our dependency on G-d in the form of sacrifice to a single location, restricted by time and distance? And why is there such a severe punishment? Is a sacrifice at the wrong place and time not better than no sacrifice?
A similar question could be asked about prayer, which has replaced sacrifices. Though we can pray anywhere, we still have designated times and other restrictions. Why is it better to pray with a minyan in a Synagogue, rather than alone on the top of a mountain, acknowledging G-d whilst surrounded by the magnificence of His world? Why must we pray three times a day, regardless of our intent and enthusiasm, rather than those times when we truly feel the connection to G-d? The "by rote" problem that plagues the routine of prescribed daily prayer would certainly be alleviated if we prayed when we felt G-d's closeness, rather than when we are obliged to do so.
The Ramchal writes (Messilat Yesharim end ch. 1): "The essence of a person's existence in this world is solely to fulfil the Mitzvot, the serving of G-d... and that their every action, great or small, be motivated by no purpose other than that of drawing near to G-d". One of the greatest challenges with which we are faced is to ensure that our religious observance is in order to serve G-d, and not merely to make ourselves feel good.
We are sometimes filled with a sense of religious euphoria, or experience a form of revelation that inspires us to draw close to G-d. Though this moment of insight may act as the catalyst to help us perform the Mitzvot, it should not be our motivation for their performance. The challenge is not to act based on our 'needs' or spiritual desires, but rather solely in order to perform G-d's commandments. This is the meaning of the Mishna (Ethics of the Fathers 2; 4) "Perform [G-d's] will as if it were your will, in order that He may do your will as if it were His will...". The goal is to subordinate our spiritual drives to those commanded us by G-d.
This is why we may only bring sacrifices, or pray, according to specific rules of time and place. The true test is not to pray 'when we are in the mood', but rather to channel that energy so that we can pray to G-d in the most appropriate manner. Bringing a sacrifice where and when one feels like it is not worshipping G-d, but succumbing to personal religious desires. This is a form of self-idolisation, which is why the Torah gives the punishment of spiritual death. Performing only those religious rituals which 'suit' us takes us further from G-d, not closer. The inevitable result of this is a lack of spirituality.

Kedoshim summary

G-d commands the entire Jewish nation to be holy. We must respect our parents and keep Shabbat. We must not worship idols, or build them for others. When we bring a Shelamim (Peace offering) we must not leave any of the meat over to the third day. We are instructed to leave the corners of the fields and other gleanings for the poor to gather.
We are prohibited to: steal, deny a rightful claim, lie, swear falsely, withhold that which belongs to another, withhold a worker's wages, curse the deaf, place a stumbling block in front of the blind, pervert justice, favour the poor in judgement, engage in gossip, stand by while another's life is in danger, hate another in our heart. We are commanded to admonish our neighbour if he does wrong, and forbidden to take revenge or bear a grudge. We must love others as ourselves, and may not crossbreed livestock with other species, nor plant a field with different kinds of grain. We must not wear a garment containing wool and linen, nor lie carnally with a slave woman who has been partially freed.
We may not eat from the fruit of a tree during its first three years. We are forbidden to engage in occult practices or to act on the basis of omens. Men may not cut the hair on the sides of their heads or shave the edges of their beards. We may not make gashes in our skin as mourning for the dead, nor tattoo ourselves. We may not defile a woman through premarital sex. We must keep Shabbat and revere the Temple.
We are commanded not to seek out mediums or oracles. We must show respect to the elderly. We may not hurt the feelings of a convert - they shall be exactly like a born Jew - nor use false weights or measures.
Anyone who gives any of his children to Molekh (a Canaanite fire god) shall be put to death by stoning. If the people ignore his actions and don't punish him, G-d will punish him with Kares (spiritual death). If a person turns to oracles and mediums they will receive Kares. Any person who curses his mother or father shall be stoned to death. Anyone who commits adultery shall be put to death. Someone who commits incest, bestiality or sodomy shall be put to death. If a man sleeps with a woman while she is in a state of Nida (ritually impure from her menstruation) the two of them shall receive Kares.
We are instructed to safeguard all of these laws so that we may remain in the land of Israel. It is a land flowing with milk and honey that G-d has set aside for us. We must also separate between the Kosher and non-Kosher animals.

Acharei Mot summary

After the death of Aharon's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, G-d commands Moshe about the Yom Kippur service that Aharon will have to perform. He shall take one bull as an atonement offering for himself, his wife and all the Cohanim. The Cohen Gadol (High Priest) shall cast lots over two identical goats, one of which is offered as an atonement for the entire Jewish nation, the other symbolically bearing all the sins of the nation is sent into the desert to die by falling over the edge of a cliff. The Cohen Gadol shall enter the Holy of Holies and offer incense there. After slaughtering the bull and the goat, he shall sprinkle their bloods opposite the outer curtain of the Holy of Holies. He shall also place some of the blood on the incense altar. All of these things are performed once a year, on the tenth of Tishrei.
G-d commands the Jews not to sacrifice any animals outside of the Temple or Tabernacle. They are forbidden from sacrificing to any idols or occult spiritual powers.
G-d commands the Jews not to eat the blood from an animal. Additionally, when anyone slaughters any wild animal or bird they must spill some of the blood on the ground and cover it with earth. We may not eat any animal which dies of natural causes. Furthermore, if someone does eat from it, they become ritually impure (a law which only has significance in Temple times).
The Torah lists twenty incestuous or otherwise forbidden sexual relationships and instructs us to remain holy, and not defile ourselves with any of them. Furthermore, the land of Israel itself will not tolerate any of these perversions, and will vomit out any nation which engages in them.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tosefet Bracha - Metzora

He will tell the Cohen saying, I have seen something like a plague in my house (14; 35)
Rashi explains that a person should not say that he has seen something which is definitely a plague in the house, but only ‘like a plague’. The source for Rashi is a Mishna in Negaim chapter 12 (Mishna 5). The commentaries there try to explain the reason for saying ‘like’ instead of definitely. Look at the Tosefot YomTov there (who brings many different explanations).
Perhaps we can explain the reason as follows. If the person would say that it is definitely a plague, he would be deciding the Halacha, that the house is certainly impure. Really this is a task that is given to the Cohen, to decide the status of the house. Sometimes there is a discolouration that look like a plague which are not, and it is the Cohen who is the expert in this. If the house owner decides the Halacha he is transgressing the prohibition of making a Halachic ruling in front of his teacher, and there is a great punishment associated with this (look in Eruvin 63a).
If so, we can better understand what the Rabbis taught in Torat Cohanim. It states there that the Cohen should give the owner of the house words of rebuke, and say, ‘my son, you should know that the plague only comes onto a house because of speaking lashon hara’. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says, ‘also because of pride’.
It is not clear why they chose only those two reasons for the plague, when the gemara in Erechin (16a) gives seven different reasons – what is special about these two?
We can explain based on the Talmud there (Erechin 16a). It was taught: Rabbi Elazar ben Parta says, ‘come and see how great is the sin of lashon hara. From where? From the spies (that Moshe sent to Israel). They only spoke badly about sticks and stones (as the Torah tells us in Shelach Lecha – “They spoke bad things about the land”). If the punishment is so great for speaking about inanimate objects, how much more so will a person be punished for speaking lashon hara about another person!
We see from here that there is even a prohibition of speaking lashon hara against sticks and stones. This explains how the Cohen must rebuke the home owner. If he says ‘I have seen a plague in my house’ (meaning definitely) he is in effect saying lashon hara against his house (since he is not deciding the Halacha or saying it for any constructive purpose), which is forbidden even on sticks and stones, and even on a house. Therefore he must say ‘like a plague’ which is not saying something definitely bad about the building (and which is for the purpose of informing the Cohen that he must come to decide the Halacha).
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar comes to add that the house owner must not make a definite decision about the matter because that is the task of the Cohen. If the house owner makes the Halachic ruling in front of the Cohen that is a sign of excessive pride, which is one of the reasons that the plague came in the first place.
Therefore the midrash didn’t tell the Cohen to list all the other reasons for the plague, because they don’t have a connection to the difference between saying ‘a plague’ or ‘like a plague’.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tosefet Bracha - Tazria

“He shall cry out ‘impure! Impure!’” (13; 48)
The gemara in Bava Kama (92a) says: Rava asked Rabba bar Meri, ‘where is the source in the Torah for this statement that people say ‘one bad thing follows another’?’ He replied, ‘the verse states “He shall cry out ‘impure! Impure!”.
The meaning of this is that it is not enough that a person with tzora’at has this affliction on his skin, but the Torah compounded his troubles by compelling him to inform everyone that he is impure, so that they will keep away from him.
In the continuation of the Talmud there they ask many similar questions – what is the source in the Torah for a certain popular statement. The question itself ‘what is the Torah source’ implies that there should be a source in the Torah for it, and the difficulty is only in extracting it from the text. This is strange. Why should we assume that there is a source in the Torah for each of these statements perhaps they are just expressions that people say.
The answer must be based on the concept in the midrashim, that any statement which is accepted or used by everyone, must certainly be true. For example the midrash says ‘the voice of the multitude is like the voice of G-d’. Given that, we can be certain that it is contained within the Torah, since it is the source of all truth. Therefore they can ask for a source and expect an answer.
Look also at Ta’anit 9a

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pri Tzadik Metzora

Metzora (2)

“This shall be the law of the metzora on the day that he becomes pure, and he is brought to the cohen.” (Vayikra 14; 2).
The order is misleading because the metzora is forbidden to enter the camp (to see the cohen) before the purification ritual, and he sending away of the bird, as it says after, “The cohen shall go out of the camp … He (the metzora) shall immerse himself in purifying waters and become pure and afterward may enter the camp” (ibid 3-8).
However in the Zohar (Tazria 49b) it writes: (R’ Yossi said) In one place the verse says “Aharon the cohen”, and in every other place it simply says “the cohen”. This ‘cohen’ refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Rav Yitzchak said; doesn’t the verse state “When a person shall have the plague of tzara’at they shall be brought to the cohen” – according to you that refers to G-d! He (R’ Yossi) answered, that is correct, since the purification and holiness depends solely upon Him.
This is clear from the fact that we don’t find any other area of Halacha that is so dependent on the cohen. Until the cohen says that the person is impure he remains pure, and similarly the purification is dependent upon the cohen, as the Mishna states (Negaim 3; 1): They (the sages) say to him (the cohen), ‘Tell him he is impure’, and he says ‘Impure’. ‘Tell him he is pure’ and he says ‘Pure’. And similarly with tzara’at of houses the verse states, “The cohen instructs that they empty the house before the cohen comes to see…” (ibid 36). The items in the house do not become impure unless and until the cohen verbally declares the house impure, even though the house is afflicted with genuine tzara’at. Therefore the Zohar says that the ‘cohen’ refers to G-d, only that the human cohen acts as an emissary of G-d, and a person’s emissary is considered the same as they themselves. G-d sends in the mouth of the cohen to say ‘pure’ or ‘impure’, and this is why in the whole section of tzara’at it always says ‘cohen’, referring to G-d, with the exception of the beginning of Parshat Tazria, where it states “Brought to Aharon the cohen, or one of his sons the Cohanim” because the verse cannot be entirely removed from its literal meaning. It must be an actual cohen who sees the tzara’at and declares it pure or impure.
This is what the Talmud (Avoda Zara) means when it says “” (Proverbs 2). If they didn’t repent how can they attain life? Rather this is what it means; if they repent they will not attain the paths of life (but will die prematurely). About this the verse states “On the day of his purification…” It must be that he has repented from the sin, for if not he would not have been cured of the tzara’at. Then he is brought to the Cohen, who is G-d. This is like the Talmud about Rabbi Elazar ben Durdia , who placed his head between his knees, repented and died. A voice came out of heaven and declared ‘Rabbi Elazar ben Dordia is invited into the World to Come’. Through the intensity of his repentance he passed away and earned the World to Come in a single moment.
The main component of repentance is abandoning the sin, and whether that has been accomplished cannot be known to any person, only to G-d alone. The Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuva) ‘Until the One Who Knows the secret things will testify about this person that they will never return to their sin.’
We find in the Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) that if someone gets married on the condition that they are completely righteous, even someone who is completely wicked is considered married – perhaps he thought about repentance at that moment. It is certainly talking about a case where the person continued to act wickedly, because if he had abandoned his sins, the Talmud wouldn’t use the language of ‘perhaps’, but rather would have said ‘because he did repent’. This appears to contradict what we said above. How can thinking about repentance be effective according to the Rambam’s guidelines for repentance? – this person has continued to be wicked! However the resolution is that when a person repents it must be to the extent that G-d testifies about this person that at that moment they have completely abandoned their sins, and if they would have the opportunity at that moment to sin they would not do so. This is considered complete repentance. Even if afterwards the Evil Inclination overpowers the person and they go back to their sinning ways. Nevertheless for that moment they did complete repentance. No person can ever know whether or not a person has repented completely. Even the person themselves may not realise the truth, for they may mislead themselves into thinking they have repented. Only G-d can know the validity of the repentance.
This is what the verse means “on the day that he becomes pure he is brought to the cohen”. This refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and the “paths of life” refers to life in the World to Come, not in this world.
This explains the Talmudic statement of “paths of life”, that it is impossible to continue to walk along the paths of life of this world and to enter the World to Come. Rather he must enter immediately into the World to Come, as the story tells, ‘a person can acquire the World to Come in a single instant’. Therefore they no longer need to be careful in this world to guard their ways because in one instant they enter the World to Come, through the earnestness of their repentance, like R’ Yossi ben Dordia.
In the Midrash Tanchuma they explain the verse “brought (huva) to the cohen” as ‘he comes’ (hu va), meaning that he must exert himself to enter. This is what R’ Yossi ben Dordia realises when he says (ibid) ‘this matter is solely dependent upon me’.
tzora’at comes for seven kinds of sin (Talmud Erechin 16a ), or for eleven (Midrash Tanchuma Metzora 10 ), but the root of all of these sins is pride, which is the way in which the serpent was able to entice Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He persuaded them to eat the fruit because of the pleasure they would receive from it, and that they would “become like G-d” (Genesis). The enticement was that they would get pleasure and become important.
This is the meaning of the verse “This is the law of the metzora on the day that he becomes pure”. He should purify himself through repentance and correct the spiritual damage done through the sin, “and be brought to the cohen”, and ‘he comes’. Like R’ Yossi ben Dordia who exerted himself to get close to G-d. Even though a person does not have to repent to the extent of R’ Yossi ben Dordia, that his soul departs his body, nevertheless a person must exert themselves to come close to G-d, and only after that will he be able to become pure and rejoin the camp of the Children of Israel.

You can also find more divrei Torah and previous parshiot at

Pri Tzadik Tazria

Tazria (3)

The Midrash Tanchuma addresses the juxtaposition of the beginning of this week’s sedra with the closing of last week’s. Shmini ends with the laws of kashrut, and Tazria begins with the laws of childbirth. The Midrash teaches that when the foetus is in the womb Hakadosh Baruch Hu teaches it the laws of kashrut; this you may eat, this you may not eat, this is pure for you, and this is impure.
We find a similar Agadata in the Talmud (Nida 30b) except that there the foetus learns the entire Torah. The Talmud there describes that they administer an oath to the foetus, saying, be righteous and not wicked. This is similar to the Midrash Tanchuma which concludes ‘he accepts upon himself in the womb all the Mitzvot of the Torah and then is born.
Why does the Midrash only mention the laws of kashrut and describe that as the whole Torah? (Look at the commentary there which asks the same question and answers differently).
The answer is that the observance of the kashrut laws encompasses all the other laws of the Torah. In the Garden of Eden the snake was only able to entice them to sin through creating a desire for the forbidden food. Someone who is careful about only eating kosher foods and imbuing them with holiness thereby keeps all the Mitzvot of the Torah, because the only way that the Evil Inclination can rule over a person is through eating and drinking, as the verse states “You shall eat and drink … Be careful lest your heart lead you astray” (Devarim 11; 15-16) .
In the Zohar it states: “The tree that Adam Harishon ate from was wheat, others say it was grapes, and others say it was a fig. These opinions do not disagree but all of these are true”. How can they all be true when they are disagreeing about the facts of what happened?
The truth is that when the Torah states “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden…” it means that the inner spirituality of each tree in the garden was the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If Adam had eaten first from the tree of life, he would have tasted in every other food that he ate the taste of Torah which is life. But when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he made every other food contain within it the taste of that tree and this is the source of all sin.
When a person corrects this sin through eating in holiness, he thereby keeps all the Mitzvot and is saved from the challenges of the Evil Inclination.
We find this on Shabbat when the eating is in holiness, that the verse states, “One who guards Shabbat from profaning it, and guards his hand from doing any evil” (Isaiah 56; 2). That through the eating of Shabbat a person is saved from the temptations of the Evil Inclination.
Similarly we find in the Zohar that the Showbread that was eaten by the Cohanim on Shabbat put the taste of holiness into all the food they ate for the week, and thereby they were saved from the temptations of the Evil Inclination.
This is the meaning of the Midrash Tanchuma that we began with, that G-d warns the foetus that all his food should be eaten with holiness, and included within this are all the Mitzvot of the Torah. Similarly we find in the Midrash Rabba (Shemot Rabba 25) that observing Shabbat corresponds to all the Mitzvot of the Torah.
What this means is that when Israel eat in holiness on Shabbat, included within that is the observance of all the Mitzvot .

Metzora summary

Metzora is a continuation of the previous portion, Tazriah. It begins with the purification process for a Metzora (one who is afflicted with tzora'as). Once the discoloration has healed from his or her skin, the Metzora undergoes a ritual purification which involves bringing a sacrifice and immersing in a Mikva. After seven days he or she may finally return to his house. The Torah also makes provisions for one who cannot afford the full sacrifice, and prescribes a smaller offering for them to bring.
The Torah describes a form of tzora'at which is a discoloration on the walls of a house. Such a house must be quarantined. If after seven days the discoloration has spread, then the affected stones must be removed. If the mark returns, the house must be demolished. During this whole process the house is tamei (ritually impure), and anyone entering into it also becomes tamei.
The Torah describes a type of male genital discharge called Zav. This renders him, or anything that he sits or lies on, tamei. Any person or utensil that he touches also becomes tamei. Once the discharge has ceased, he must count seven clean days. On the eighth day he immerses in a Mikva to purify himself, and brings a purification sacrifice.
When a man has a seminal discharge, or a woman discharges semen after intercourse, he or she becomes tamei. They must immerse in a Mikva and become tahor (ritually pure) after nightfall.
When a woman menstruates she becomes tamei, and also renders anything which she sits or lies on tamei. She must wait seven days, immerse herself in a Mikva, thus becoming tahor at nightfall. If a man has intercourse with her before she has become tahor, he also becomes tamei and makes anything he sits or lies on tamei.
If a woman has a discharge when it is not time for her menstrual period, she must count seven clean days without any discharge before she can become tahor. During this time she also renders anything which she sits or lies on tamei. On the eighth day she must immerse in a Mikva to become pure, and then brings a sacrifice.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Parshat Tazria

Parsha of the Week (Rabbi David Sedley)

Striving for the Greatness of the Beginning

Last week's Torah reading ended with the laws of ritual purity and impurity caused by animals. This week continues with the laws about human purity and impurity. The Midrash notes that the order is the same as that of creation, where humans came after other life already existed:
"You [G-d] have created me after and before, and have laid Your hand upon me." (Psalms 139; 4). Reish Lakish said, "After" refers to the last day of creation, "Before" refers to the first day. [where the verse hints to the human soul with the words], "The spirit of the L-rd hovered over the face of the water". If a person merits they say to them, 'You were created before everything else in existence', but if not they say to them, 'A mosquito was created before you'. Rabbi Simlai said, 'Just as humans were created after animals and birds, so too the laws [of purity] of people follow those of animals and birds'.
Reish Lakish's cryptic statement can be understood by recognising that a person is made up of two opposites, a spiritual soul and a physical body. These two are in constant conflict, each pursuing its own desires. The soul yearns for the spiritual delights of drawing close to G-d through performing mitzvot and studying Torah. The body wants physical pleasures, chasing after money, food and physical comforts. In certain areas of our lives the soul has control, in others the body. The point of intersection between the two is where we have free choice to follow either path.
Reish Lakish explains that though the physical body was not created until the end of the sixth day of creation, the soul was present from the first. Therefore if a person follows their spiritual urges seeking to draw closer to G-d, they are defined by their soul and to them it may be said, 'You were created before anything else...'. However, if a person's decisions are made by the body and its physical desires, the soul is less discernible, and therefore they are reminded that their body was created after even the insects.
The higher the spiritual potential of something, the greater is the risk of spiritual impurity. Minerals have no soul, and therefore do not impart impurity. The vegetable kingdom has a lowly form of soul, which allows growth and movement. Animals have a higher soul, which permits thought and instinct. Humans have the highest level of soul, which is described in Jewish literature as the level of speech.
The source of impurity is the body, which leads the soul away from G-d. A newborn baby is full of potential, but this is only realised over time as it is governed less by bodily urges and needs. Therefore birth, which is the completion of the physical body imparts impurity.
It is appropriate that we read this portion so soon after Pesach, the time of the birth of the nation. Similarly the counting of the Omer, of which we are in the midst, ties in with the concept of 'Before' and 'After'. The Jews in Egypt had reached the lowest level of spiritual impurity, to the point that had they remained there even a moment longer they would have lost their spirituality completely, and thus been unable to leave. Yet after counting seven weeks they had reached the level of spiritual perfection where they could experience the revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai. In a sense this self-perfection is the inverse of G-d's creation. G-d first created the soul, and then placed it within the body which draws it away from its true purpose. The Israelite nation elevated their physical bodies to the heights of spiritual perfection.
Each year we are able to relive this growth through the counting of the Omer. The Torah commands us to count from the "day after Shabbat", which refers to the first day of Pesach. Shabbat is both the beginning of the coming week, and the end of the previous week. It is the 'Seventh day' and yet within it we find the spiritual sustenance to get us through the next week. By calling Pesach 'Shabbat' the Torah is telling us that Pesach was both the starting point from which to grow to spiritual heights, and the goal for which we aimed. The Jews were involved in physical labour that gave them no opportunity for spiritual growth. Yet they witnessed G-d's hand in Egypt, the direct revelation that they were to experience again at Mount Sinai. They entire nation was as a newborn baby, full of as yet unrealised potential, redeemed by G-d in the merit of the spiritual heights that they would reach in the future.
Just as the nation experienced spiritual growth during these weeks, we can use this same time period for our own individual growth, in preparation for our personal acceptance of the Torah at Shavuot. We count each day and week to chart the incremental spiritual growth, leading to the fulfillment of our potential.

Tazria summary

After discussing the laws of tumah (ritual impurity) regarding animals, the Torah now discusses tumah concerning humans. It starts with the laws of a woman who has given birth, and moves on to the laws of leprosy.
A person who has a mark which is suspected of having tzora'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) is brought before a Cohen (priest). He determines whether it is tzora'at and declares it tamei (impure). The different possibilities of tumah and tahara (ritual purity) are explained. Various laws are given for tzora’at of an infection or a burn. Other types of tzora’at are listed, for instance bald patches on the head or beard, white patches on the body. Someone afflicted with tzora’at must leave their home and dwell outside the camp or city until the tzora’at goes.
A garment on which appears a red or green mark is also suspected of tzora’at and must be brought before the Cohen. The procedure for determining the garment’s status is explained.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tosefet Bracha - Shimini 2

Reasons for the Mitzvot - Keeping it all Hidden

Regarding the concept of giving reasons for mitzvot – it is difficult for me to accept the vailidity of any explanation. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 21b) explains that the Torah chose not to give reasons for the mitzvot for a purpose, because if we knew the reasons we may come to be lenient in their observance. The Talmud there gives examples of this. Who knows the secrets of G-d in all the Torah and mitzvot and their reasons, such that they can give an explanation or a reason. I have explained this objection at length elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the best explanation seems to me to be based on the intention of the Sages in the Yerushalmi (Peah chapter 4; halacha 2): It was taught in the name of Rabbi Shimon, there are five reasons why a person should only leave the peah (crops) for the poor at the edges of his field.
1. because of theft from the poor – so that the owner of the field can’t wait for a time when there are no poor people around and then tell one of his poor relatives to come and take the gifts before anyone else gets a chance. By leaving it at the end of the field, when he has finished harvesting there will be time for other poor people to gather.
2. because of wasting the time of the poor people – so that they don’t have to wait during the entire harvest until the owner decides to give them peah. Since he only gives it at the end of the harvest the poor will be able to gather at the appropriate time.
3. because of the cheats – so that the owner of the field cannot say that he has already given the peah, or chose for himself the best crops and only leave the bad quality grain for the poor. By giving whatever is left at the end of the field he is forced to give whatever is there regardless of quality.
4. because of the way it looks to others – that people passing shouldn’t say that the owner hasn’t left peah at the edge of his field. Since he has to leave it at the end they will see that he is still in the middle of his harvest and has not yet become obligated to leave it for the poor.
5. because the Torah says that you may not harvest the peaot (corners) of the field – and the corners means the edges.
This is incredible. First Rabbi Shimon gives four reasons that are understandable, then he ends with a fifth reason ‘because the Torah said so!’. Obviously all of the other reasons are based on this wording of the Torah, so this is not a separate reason, how can he just say ‘because the Torah said so’?
It must be that what he is saying is that even though there are many reasons why the mitzvah makes sense, nevertheless the primary fundamental reason is only because it says so in the Torah, and that is the sole basis for the obligation for the mitzvah.
In the Talmud Bavli (Shabbat 23a) it only gives four reasons for peah, and leaves out the final reason of ‘because the Torah said so’. This is because the opinion of the Bavli is that you can’t say ‘because’, since this is the foundation and the reason for everything, as we have explained.
Based on this explanation we can also understand the Talmud in Eruvin (21b) on the verse “Shlomo spoke 3000 analogies, and his songs were 1500” (Melachim 1. 5; 12). From here we learn that for every word of Torah there are 3000 analogies, and on each Rabbinic mitzvah there are 1500 reasons.
This requires explanation; why are the reasons for the mitzvot described as analogies, and the reasons for Rabbinic mitzvot as reasons?
Based on what we explained above we understand that it is impossible for us to give definite reasons for the mitzvot of the Torah, to say without a doubt this was the intention and reason of the Torah. It is impossible for a human to fully understand the depths of the reasoning of G-d, the Torah or the mitzvot. Therefore any reason that we give for a mitzvah is only an estimation or assesment based on our knowledge, similar to an analogy that someone gives for something, which is not the actual thing, but something which is similar to it, or leads to a better understanding of it. But this is not to say that the analogy is actually the thing itself. However, with Rabbinic mitzvot, the Sages themselves gave the reasons for their words, and we just have to explain, expand and develop them. But the basis of Rabbinic mitzvot are true and specific reasons. Therefore when describing the reasons for Torah mitzvot it uses the word ‘analogy’, because the reason is only ever an approximation, but with Rabbinic mitzvot the Talmud can use the word ‘reason’ because it could be the actual reason.
This may be the intention of the Rambam in giving reasons for the mitzvot. Perhaps he is only giving analogies and estimates and his opinions. However he should have been more careful to state that was what he was doing.
I also wanted to use this concept to answer a difficult passage of Talmud (Sanhedrin 17a) where it says that they only accepted someone as a member of the Sanhedrin (high court) if he was able to give 150 different reasons why a sheretz (an impure animal) should be pure. Tosefot there write that Rabbeinu Tam had difficulty with this. Why should we be interested in spurious logic, to purify something which the Torah has said is impure.
According to what we have said, though, there is a purpose to this logical exercise. Through this brilliance and logic we come to realise with certainty that there is no purpose in investigating the reasoning of the Torah and the reasons or intent of the mitzvot. If it were possible to come to a full understanding of the reasons for the mitzvot it must be that after giving 150 reasons why a sheretz must be pure, that we would reclassify it as such. Since we know that it remains impure because the Torah told us so, therefore we know that any reason or logic that we can give is not the same as the actual reason or logic of the Torah and the mitzvah. This teaches us that we must accept the mitzvot unquestioningly, without investigating or challenging them. Even in a place where human logic seems to dictate something other than what the Torah says.
This concept also explains the statement of the Talmud in Eruvin (13b): It is will known that there was noone to compare to Rabbi Meir in his generation. Why is the Halacha not in accordance with his opinion? Because his contemporaries were unable to fully understand his reasoning. He used ot say that something impure was pure, and would bring proofs, then show that something pure was impure and bring proofs for that as well. Rashi explains that he could show an equally reasoned argument for something that was the correct Halacha as for something that was not the correct Halacha. His contemporaries were unable to understand which opinions of his were in accordance with Halacha and which ones not.
We see from here that it is beyond human logic to give an exact reason for the Halacha, because Rabbi Meir was able to give an equally convincing reason and explanation for the opposite of the Halacha also.
I have also explained more on this topic of reasons for mitzvot in Parshat Acharei (Vayikra 17; 8) and also on Parshat Devarim (1; 16).
Now I will show you where we find that the Sages seem to say that you should look into the reasons for the mitzvot, against what we have just said, and we will give a resolution of the apparent contradiction.
If you look at the end of Pesachim (119a) “And her merchandise and harlot’s wages will one day become holy to G-d; it shall not be sotred nor accumulated, for her merchandise will belong to those who sit before G-d, to eat and be sated and for elegant clothing” (Yishiyahu 23; 18). Regarding this the Sages said: What is elegant clothing (lit. covered ancient)? This refers to someone who covers the things that were kept hidden by the Ancient One (meaning G-d). What are those things? The secrets of the Torah. One should not give them over to anyone but only to those who sit before G-d. Others say this refers to one who reveals the things that the Ancient One kept hidden, and they are the reasons for the mitzvot.
The Rashbam explains that the phrase ‘elegant clothing’ implies the secrets of the Torah that were originally hidden by the Ancient One. He revealed them and gave permisson to reveal them. Someone who reveals them will merit to all the rest of the things in the verse.
This explanation doesn’t come close to explaining all the difficulties in the verse. It is clear that this is a forced explanation. The verse says ‘covered ancient’, how can we take it from this simple reading to mean its opposite, uncovered? This is an extremely difficult explanation.
Apart from this, the Maharsha was right to question this whole piece. This statement blatently contradicts what they clearly said in Sanhedrin (21b) about the value of hiding the reasons of the Torah, as we cited above. In neither place did the Sages point out or deal with this contradiction.
Look at what the Rashash wrote in his commentary, where he asks all these questions. His answers are extremely difficult to accept.
Were I not afraid to offer my opinion I would say that the text of our Talmud is in error. Instead of saying ‘reveal the things…’ it should say ‘cover the things…’. Then there would be no contradiction between the sources, both would be explaining covered in terms of keeping hidden. They would only be arguing about the purpose in keeping these things covered. The first opinion refers to keeping the secrets of the Torah hidden, as the Rashbam explains. This refers to the secrets of kabbalah which may not be taught in public (as explained in the second chapter of Chagiga). The second opinion refers to keeping the reasons for the Torah hidden, because it is not appropriate to reveal them. In this way the Gemara in Pesachim does not contradict that in Sanhedrin. All the contradictions are resolved simply.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tosefet Bracha Shmini 1

Parsha of the week - Shmini.
Tosefet Bracha (R' Baruch Halevi Epstein)

“And the stork (chasida)” 11; 19
The Talmud (Chulin 64a) explains why this bird is called a chasida (kind one), because it does kindness with its friends. Rashi explains that it shares it food with them.
From here we have to ask a question on the words of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim. He gives the reason for the kashrut laws and the prohibition of eating impure animals because their nature is bad and their qualities are cruel. When a person ingests an animal with these traits they adopt these traits themselves.
This stork, the kind one, seems to contradict the Rambam’s theory, since it has a positive nature in sharing its food with others, and even so it is listed with the impure and non kosher birds.
Apart from that we must ask on the whole approach of the Rambam. How can we understand the idea of the attributes of an animal attaching themselves to someone who eats them? From the time of creation people have been eating the meat of animals and drinking their milk. Despite thousands of years of ingesting animals, we don’t find that human nature has adopted the traits or mentality of the animals that they eat. We don’t find any traces of animal nature in either the bodies or the souls of people.
Furthermore, it is explicit in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Avodah Zarah chapter 2, which is also brought by Tosefot on Avodah Zarah 26a s.v. akum): A child may nurse from a non Jewish woman or any kind of impure animal, and they may bring him milk from anywhere without being concerned about the prohibition of doing things that are disgusting.
If there was a concern that the nature of the animal can be passed on to one who eats from it, the Rabbis would certainly have been careful not to allow a child to nurse from a non kosher animal unless it was a matter of life and death. Look in Yoreh Deah at the end of siman 81 where he deals with this topic.
It is therefore difficult to know where the Rambam got this idea of animal nature entering people. Perhaps it came from the medical konwledge of his time, but even so it would have been impossible for him to bring this concept wihtout any basis or source from the Sages.
In answer to our first question about the stork being a contradiction to the Rambam’s theory, perhaps we can say that the fact that it shares its food doesn’t contradict its inherent cruel nature. For example we know that the raven is one of the cruelest birds, and is used as an example of the extremes of cruelty in the Talmud (Eruvin 22a) ‘he made himself cruel like a raven’. Even so the Sages have told us that the ravens love each other (Pesachim 112b). So too with mice, they invite each other to share their food with them (Yerushalmi Bava Metziah chapter 3 ;halacha 5), and even so they are called ‘wicked mice’ (ibid.). Given these examples, it is possible that the stork who shares her food does not provide a contradiction to the Rambam’s theory that her inherent nature is cruel and bad.
We still have to explain the meaning of that Yerushalmi. Why should they call mice wicked because they invite their friends to share their food? That seems like a good trait not a negative one.
But the truth is that their words are correct. The Yerushalmi is precise in its language when it says ‘when they see lots of food’ – that is when they invite others to share with them. This implies that when they only find a small amount of food, and there won’t be enough for the others, in such a case they don’t invite any other mice to share with them. From here we see that the fact that they do invite others sometimes is not because of their good traits, but rather because of their wickedness, that they wish to destroy and ruin all of the food that they find. If they were really interested in being good they would invite their friends even when there was not enough food, but they don’t, because they are concerned that if they share a small amount they may not get enough for themselves.
Regarding the original statement that the stork is called chadisa because she shares her food with others, perhaps we can also give another reason for that name.
Based on the zoology books who call this bird ‘storch’ or ‘aist’, and it is described as having a long beak and long legs. During the winter it leaves its nest and flies south to Africa or India. As spring arrives it returns to the same nest that it left several months previously (this is what Yeremiahu hints at when he says “Even the stork in the heavens knows the appointed time” (8; 7)). They are also birds that mate for life, and they never cheat on their partners. Therefore perhaps we can say that it is called chasida because of the way that it remains faithful to the same partner for its entire life, and the word chasida here means faithful and honest. We find this meaning in the verse in Mishlei (31; 26) “the Torah of chesed is on her tongue” – which means Torah of faith. Similarly in Tehillim “He will build a world of chesed”, which, based on the explanation of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58; 2) means the honesty of family relationships (specifically that Adam could not marry his own daughter because otherwise Cain would have had nobody to marry).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Parshat Shmini

Parsha of the Week - Happiness and Fear.
Rabbi David Sedley

This week we read about the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). This was mentioned at the end of Shemot, as the culmination of the redemption from Egypt. Not only were the Jews free physically, but spiritually they had reached the level whereby G-d's Shechina (Divine Presence) was able to dwell amongst them. The completion of the Mishkan, and the Shechina that dwelt there were also signs that the nation had been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf. It was a momentous day when G-d's Presence first rested upon the Mishkan. "The people saw [that G-d's Presence had entered the Mishkan] and they rejoiced and fell upon their faces" (Vayikra 9; 24).
Yet this joyous occasion was marred by the death of two of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. "They brought to G-d an alien fire that He had not commanded. A fire came forth from before G-d and consumed them, and they died before G-d." (ibid. 10; 1-2). However, their death was as a result of an incident that had happened almost a year earlier. When Moshe ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, the elders ascended part of the way with him. "Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended Against the great men of the Children of Israel He did not stretch out His hand, for they gazed at G-d, yet they ate and drank" (Shemot 24; 10-11). Rashi explains that they gazed at G-d as they were eating and drinking, without showing proper respect, and for this they incurred the penalty of death.
The eating and drinking at Mount Sinai was not out of gluttony, but was an expression of the joy they felt at that momentous occasion. It was this same motivation that caused Nadav and Avihu to bring the alien fire that led to their deaths. The Midrash (Torat Cohanim 32) states that they were infused with happiness, and when they saw the fire descend from heaven, they wanted to add 'love to love', and brought their own fire. At both of these happiest of days Nadav and Avihu (and the rest of the nation) acted out of love for G-d, trying to draw closer to the Divine Presence. Yet they were punished for this.
In addition to the mitzvah to love G-d there is a commandment to fear Him. In the Haggadah we read "'With great fear' - this is the revelation of the Divine Presence." Each Amida concludes with the words, "May it be Your will that the Temple be rebuilt speedily and may we serve You there with fear.". The Mitzvah of coming to Jerusalem to behold the Divine Presence on each festival is called Re'iah, which is closely related to the word Yirah meaning fear.
The Rambam (Mishne Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2; 2) explains the path of come to love and fear G-d. When a person sees the wonder of creation they feel a desire to love and become close to G-d. This makes them realise how insignificant and imperfect they are in comparison to Him. So here is love which leads to fear. However, when a person is confronted with a direct revelation of G-d the effect is the opposite. Their first reaction should be reverence and fear, and only through that come to a love of G-d.
The happiest of biblical festivals was Succot, which is referred to in the prayers as simply "The time of our happiness". However the rejoicing of Succot can only follow from the fear of judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But even then the rejoicing in the Temple was tempered with fear, as the Mishna states, "The pious and righteous would dance before the people holding fiery torches in their hands" (Succah 5; 4). Only those who were already filled with reverence were allowed to rejoice in overt happiness.
With this knowledge we can resolve an apparent contradiction in the Psalms. In Psalm 2 (verse 11) King David states, "Serve G-d with fear, and rejoice with trembling". Yet in Psalm 100 (verse 2) he wrote, "Serve G-d with gladness, come before Him with joyous song". The context of the former is G-d judging the nations, through revelation of His Presence, which calls for rejoicing tinged with fear. However, in the latter, David finds G-d in nature, through the wonders of creation. This 'hidden' revelation of G-d causes rejoicing and love, and only after will we become filled with fear of G-d.

Summary - Shmini

Parshat Hashavua - Shmini

This portion begins on the eighth day of preparing the Tabernacle. Aharon offers a Chatat (sin offering) and an Olah (burnt offering) and the Israelites offer a Chatat , an Olah and a Shelamim (peace offering). These are prepared by Aharon, together with a Mincha (grain offering), after which he blesses the people. Moshe and Aharon go into the Communion Tent and come out and again bless the people.
The Children of Israel are then shown G-d's glory. Fire descends from heaven and consumes all of the sacrifices on the altar. Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, bring an unauthorised sacrifice, and a fire descends from G-d and kills them. Aaron and his sons, Elazar and Ithamar, are instructed not to mourn because they are Cohanim (Priests). Instead, the whole congregation mourns for Aharon's sons. The Cohanim are instructed never to enter the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting) intoxicated. Then they complete the inauguration service.
The portion continues with the kashrut (dietary) laws. Only animals that have split hooves and chew their cud may be eaten. Four animals are listed that only have one of these signs, the camel, the hyrax, the hare and the pig. Of the creatures that live in water, only those with fins and scales may be eaten. Birds that may not be eaten are listed; all other fowl may be eaten. Flying insects that walk on four legs may not be eaten, unless they have knees which extend above their feet that are used for hopping. Certain types of locust which fall into this category are listed.
Contact with the carcass of a non-Kosher animal renders a person tamei (ritually impure). Carrying the carcass also renders one's clothing tamei. There are eight small creeping animals (sheratzim) which make anyone who comes into contact with their carcasses tamei. The Torah gives some of the laws of tumah for utensils and foods which come into contact with a tamei object. Contact with the carcass of a kosher animal makes a person tamei. Eating from its carcass or carrying it also contaminates one's clothing. Any creature which crawls close to the ground, whether on its belly, four legs or many legs, may not be eaten.